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The Monobob Anomaly: Did you know about the Bejing Olympics' female-only sport?

Starring only women, the monobob event at the Beijing Olympics may be a welcome boost towards gender equality - but is it shrouding further truths?

Monobob will be a female-only sport at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Monobob will be a female-only sport at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (Source: Reuters)


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 1 Aug 2022 7:47 AM GMT

'Who said boys can have all the fun?' - that's how the tagline ran of a popular two-wheeler television commercial back in the day but the spirit of the statement is something the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 has taken to heart.

Featuring a women-only event (blink all you may, it is true!) known as the monobob at the Beijing Winter Olympics, female participants in the bobsledding event get a chance at winning more medals, apparently pleading the case for gender equality at the Games.

The monobob is a unique event and will see single women-manned sleds as they push, leap and drive it down the icy tracks of Beijing, in its debut appearance. Being one of the seven new sports that got added to the roster of the 2022 Winter Olympics, women's monobob is joined by Men's and Women's Big Air (Freestyle Skiing), Mixed Team Snowboard Cross, Mixed Team Aerials, Mixed Team Short Track Relay, and Mixed Team Ski Jumping, as well.

In the women's monobob, which comes as an addition to the two-woman bobsleigh event, we'll be seeing a singular woman doing it all - pushing, driving and breaking, making for quite the one-man show as they handle a sled that is 162 kgs in weight. Typically and historically as films like 'Cool Runnings' and previous editions of the Olympics have taught us, the bobsleigh event at the Olympics operates in two main categories: the two-man/woman event and the marquee, four-man man.

If we are quick to celebrate the gender equality tidbit, let's pause for a bit and gulp down some history. Men have been speeding down the bobsled tracks since the 1924 Olympics - first, in the four-man race event and since 1932, in the two-man races. Women, as always, were invited late to this party and it wasn't even before 2002 that women got the chance to do the two-person event and the monobob, that arrives now, is both a boon and a bane in disguise, hiding further truths.

Is this gender equality - for real?

Monobob is all set to make its Winter Olympics debut (Source: OIS)

Women were on the quest to get their own four-women event at the Olympics and instead in the International Olympic Association's attempt to promote gender equality, we now have the monobob, an event that wasn't really asked for but has been given to appease the womenfolk, nonetheless.

"Women were shortchanged," Canadian pilot Cynthia Appiah says. "We've been advocating for a second event to include more women in the sport for the longest time. This wasn't a fight to just get a second event so that we could win another medal. The point was to progress the sport," Appiah mentioned to The Star.

In coarse facts, men have had two bobsleigh events since forever and see much more representation by number at the Olympics - with 124 spots available for men and just 46 for the women.

However, even though monobob doesn't solve and settle the gender equality debate, it does mean good tidings for women athletes as it has the potential to deliver because of the geographical diversity that it promises to owe to the rules.

Also, the competitive balance that monobob will assure is admirable - monobobs not being owned by national federations will prevent the economically-strong countries from splurging money to get a technological advantage. In fact, all the monobob sleds at the Beijing Olympics will come from the same manufacturer although athletes are allowed to make minor modifications while setting up the sled.

Monobobs are definitely slower than the two-person and four-person sleds but it is a welcome addition in any case. While the fight to include the four-women event at the Olympics is still in the works, female athletes from a variety of NOC's who don't have a tradition in winter sports also, can participate in this and stand a chance to make history. For a change, the Beijing Olympics will see women having all the singular fun - even if it is for one lone event.

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